Film Review: Paradise

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Venue: Edinburgh Film Festival.

EDINBURGH -- “Paradise” (“Paradiset”) is a quietly pleasing vignette that observes an elderly Swedish couple and their idyllic rural retreat. The latest small-screen documentary from Polish-born director Jerzy Sladkowski, this whimsical miniature may attract film-festivals seeking lighter material to counterbalance their heavier fare.

While protagonists Hans and Kerstin, married for more than 60 years, aren’t immune to the realities of old age, they’re far better off than the vast majority of the planet’s octogenarians. Untroubled by financial concerns, this articulate, engaging pair seem in sprightly health, have loving children and grandkids and a cozy house surrounded by beautiful forests and lakes. And, of course, they also have each other -- although, as with all long-time marrieds, things aren’t always blissfully harmonious.

Among countless minor frictions, there’s a disagreement over what to do with the main “feature wall” of their living-room. Hans favors an Ikea wallpaper named Paradise, a busy affair of intertwining flora and fauna which isn’t to Kerstin’s taste. After a wry coda in which Hans displays his ineptitude as a chef, the bulk of the movie concerns the business of hanging said wall-covering.

This is as undramatic as it sounds, but is precisely the kind of everyday domestic business that can reveal much about the individuals concerned and the dynamics of their relationship. Sladkowski lets the duo speak for themselves, his cameras never mentioned or acknowledged even when they’re in the thick of what passes here for “action.”

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